5 Non-Technical Skills Every Web Developer Should Have

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Web Development continues to be one of the hottest industries, and the demand for skilled professionals shows no signs of slowing. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, driven by the growing popularity of mobile devices and ecommerce, employment of Web Developers is projected to grow 15% from 2016 to 2026, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.

Generally, a Web Developer should be able to wireframe/layout a website or web application; write HTML and CSS from scratch; take a .PSD file and turn it into a working website; add interactivity to a website with JavaScript (or jQuery); write a basic application in an object-oriented programming language like Ruby or Python or PHP, and so on. However, it takes more than technical skills to advance and truly earn the right to lead projects and teams. This where soft (non-technical) skills come in.

Soft skills are personal attributes that enhance an individual’s interactions, job performance, and career prospects. Unlike hard skills, which are about a person’s skill-set and ability to perform a certain type of task or activity, soft skills are interpersonal and broadly applicable.

Before we get into the top non-technical skills, let's first review three major roles within web development, since there's often some confusion. Note that some developers handle all aspects of a website’s construction, and others specialize in a certain aspect of it.

  • Back-End Web Developer: These pros focus on the server side of development and are primarily focused on how the site works.
  • Front-End Web Developer: Focused on the client-side, these professionals are responsible for the look, feel, and, ultimately, the design of a website.
  • Full-Stack Web Developer: Full-Stack Developers can work cross-functionally on the full “stack” of technology—both the front-end and back-end.

Here are some additional roles within the realm of development:

  • App Developer: A computer software engineer whose primary responsibilities include creating, testing, and programming apps for computers, mobile phones, and other types of devices.
  • Software Developer: A Software Developer, also known as a Software Engineer, will create programs and software for computers using code and programming languages.
  • User Experience (UX) Designer: These professionals are directly involved in the process of making a product useful, usable, and enjoyable for its end-users.
  • Web Designer: Web Designers use graphics and graphic design software (Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign) to create a look for the web site.

OK. Now, let's cover some of the most useful non-technical skills that, arguably, all Developers should possess:

1. Time Management

According to Scott Stiner, CEO & President of UM Technologies, “The developers who truly garner traction, not to mention attention from employers, are those who have mastered time management.” Time management is especially important in modern development environments, where coders often work on a number of different tasks throughout the day. There are countless things that can prolong a development cycle, including concepts, designs, testing, and more, but if you make time management a priority, you can regain control of your schedule and work more efficiently.

Time management most often begins with setting goals, which can be broken down into a project, an action plan, or a simple task list. Web Developers will also benefit by taking the time to practice active listening, which involves paying close attention to what the other person is saying, asking clarifying questions, and rephrasing what the person says to ensure understanding.

2. Teamwork

When it comes to web development, teamwork is vital. It's especially important since there're so many elements involved in the process. There are teams for research, design, optimization, and more.  The web strategist, content specialist, and web designer help create the desired website together; however; it is the work of the developer to tie all the pieces together with the right code for the website, and teamwork and collaboration are paramount.

The other important part of teamwork is being able to collaborate effectively with remote employees, which is quite common today, especially in web development. The modern workplace continues to make strides in digital collaboration, but there are still some pitfalls to avoid. Development projects typically depend on input from a variety of team members, including management, designers, marketing, and more. Consolidating feedback from a multitude of sources is no easy feat, let alone coordinating tasks among a number of team members and ensuring projects are on-schedule. That’s why collaboration tools, such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, Basecamp, Asana, and others, are critical, especially for more complex projects.

3. Communication

Whether it's via email, telephone, online conference, or face-to-face, communication is key. In fact, part of what makes someone a great communicator is recognizing the most appropriate channel; often an extensive email would be better served in a phone call or vice versa. A Web Developer who is also an excellent communicator will ensure that their clients always have a clear, overall view of the project. They’ll explain everything in layman's terms and will avoid confusing jargon. It's part of the developer's job to make clients feel more comfortable, overall, about their project.

Generally, here are some ways to help improve your communication, especially with clients:

  • Encourage Feedback
  • Be Clear and Thorough with Email
  • Use Face-to-Face Contact Whenever Possible
  • Avoid Any Assumptions
  • Explain the Why

4. Critical Thinking

Critical thinking means making reasoned judgments that are logical and well-thought out. It's a way of thinking where you don't simply accept all arguments and conclusions without questioning. It requires wanting to see what evidence is involved to support a particular argument or conclusion. Critical thinking plays a crucial role in evaluating new ideas, selecting the best ones, and modifying them if necessary. As a Web Developer, you will sometimes be faced with several possible implementation methods to achieve the same outcome. Critical thinking will allow you to quickly analyze and test each method mentally, before deciding on the most efficient one.

5. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It's generally said to include three skills: emotional awareness; the ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions. So how is having this skill important for Web Developers? Keep in mind that you design a website for people—for the overall experience and to enable a brand to connect with others. That’s why it is also important to consider who your client’s target users are and how they’re going to react to the design. According to research on emotional intelligence, the emotional connection with customers is going to define the future of business. Emotions will be the key components that help you determine what's truly important to the end-user.

Some Closing Thoughts

Professional development is important in any field, but Web Developers, in particular, must constantly stay up-to-date on the latest trends and technology. Still, there are many soft skills that will not only complement your technical know-how but will make you stand out among the rest. If you're looking at ways to expand and develop your non-technical skills, you should consider reviewing our library of Leadership & Professional Development courses that LeapFox Learning has to offer.